The location of the sink determines the requirements for its durability. Kitchen sinks must stand up to constant abuse, but bathroom sinks -- not so much. When choosing a sink for your home, the material matters more than the manufacturer, as some sink materials fare better than others do. Kitchen sinks not only need to stand up to temperature changes, but also dropped pots, dishes and utensils, as nothing is worse than buying a new sink only to have it chip or shatter when your child tosses his silverware into it.
At the top of the list, Consumer Reports says that the sink's gauge -- the thickness of the steel -- doesn't really matter in stainless steel sinks. The sinks tested ranged from 18- to 23-gauge stainless steel, but they all performed the same. If you don't like the noise of a stainless steel sink with the water running or the clatter of dishes, add a pad at the bottom of the sink that absorbs sound, a much cheaper option that choosing a stainless steel sink with a spray coating. Stainless steel resists scratches, withstands high heat and doesn't stain.
Cast-iron sinks covered with porcelain or enamel are durable sinks, but they are heavy items that require solidly constructed cabinets. Temperature changes don't affect them much, just as in stainless steel, but carelessly tossing sharp objects into the sink can chip them. When you buy a cast-iron sink, coat its surface with a sealant, much as if it's a granite countertop or tile floor. Cleaning the sink with abrasive cleansers can dull the finish.
Composite Granite Sinks
Composite granite sinks, an engineered product made with real granite, provides resistance to scratches, chips, fruit acids and stains. Like stainless and cast-iron sinks, composite granite sinks withstand high temperatures and don't fade when exposed to heat. Granite composite sinks have matte finishes that withstand constant abuse. Cleanup is easy with a nylon bristle brush and soapy water. Rinse the sink clean and wipe it down with a dry cloth to prevent hard-water stains. Avoid abrasive cleaners if you don't want to damage the finish.
Integrated Solid-Surface Sinks
You'll find integrated sinks in the bathroom or in kitchens where manmade solid-surface and seamless materials cover the countertop or vanity. These sinks do much better in the bathroom where they're not as exposed to the conditions that kitchen sinks face. In the kitchen, some solid-surface integrated sinks can show scratches, but all you need do is sand the scratches with wet sandpaper to remove them. These surfaces are not heat-resistant, so don't put a hot pan into the sink. As a non-porous material, they resist stains and bacteria growth.
Hammered copper brings charm to any room, and its surface kills bacteria before it has a chance to grow. Copper is heat-resistant; it often clads the bottoms of pots and pans. Copper does have some disadvantages in that it develops a natural patina with time, but food acids and beverages can discolor it if you don't regularly maintain it. Copper sinks require higher maintenance than most other materials.